Soy Cuba Showcases the Unique Art of Cuban Film Posters
The vivid and colorful designs of Cuban film posters are the stars of the Library exhibition Soy Cuba: The Film Poster in Cuba. The twenty-five silkscreened posters from the Booth Family Center for Special Collections reveal the creative work of the Cuban artists employed by the Institute of Art and Film Industry (Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos or ICAIC). Founded shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the ICAIC became a catalyst for the promotion of Cuban cinema and inaugurated a new genre of bold and original movie posters by talented native artists. While supporting the careers of this special cadre of artists, the ICAIC helped establish a distinctive national art form that heralded Cuban achievements in the international film community.
In contrast to standard film posters which rely heavily on photographic imagery, Cuban posters feature basic designs rendered in broad areas of flat color with bold and original typography. Whether humorous, elegant or quirky in effect, each poster is an independent work of art. The silkscreen medium marked another departure from the half-tone lithographs of their American and European counterparts, as well as their uniform size of 30 by 20 inches. The designs reflect a range of styles from art nouveau to pop art to abstraction, and some featured photographic components.
Selections in the exhibition include work from well-known Cuban artists such as Eduardo Muñoz Bachs, Antonio Fernandez Reboiro, and René Portocarrero, whose festive ceremonial mask appears on the poster for the film Soy Cuba (I am Cuba). Portocarrero was primarily a painter, but he also designed the costumes for the 1964 film, which was shot in black and white. It presents four short stories about the hardships of the Cuban people, from farmers to students and urban dwellers.
The exhibition is subdivided into four sections: films made in Cuba; foreign films; film festivals; and heroes and characters. The broad variety of themes reflects the ICAIC’s inclusive approach to promote local and international films, while organizing special cinematic events to celebrate achievements in the film industry.
From a purchase in 2008, the University Art Collection holds some 322 Cuban film posters. Soy Cuba: the Film Poster in Cuba was first shown in the Library in 2009 at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the ICAIC. The selections and content are the work of former graduate students in the department of Spanish and Portuguese. This installation includes additional material to show how artists are often inspired by the work of other artists, images in commercial advertising, and pop culture. The additions also include a handful of movie DVDs borrowed from the Library’s circulating collection.